How Much Work in Las Vegas Can be Done without People?By Nick Sortal, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 1, 2017 at 10:09 pmSometime last month, if you were watching “CBS This Morning” while getting ready for work, you might have seen and been surprised by a graphic: 65.2 percent of the jobs in Las Vegas could be lost to automation. You may have thought of your dealer friends, and your casino host, and said to yourself “No freaking way.”But it’s not really about the gambling, according to the man behind the study that CBS was quoting. Johannes Moenius, of the University of Redlands School of Business, in California, says the future impact of automation can’t be overstated – but your casino floor isn’t where it’s going to happen.CBS flashed the graphic as a hook to its weeklong series on robotics, and didn’t provide any details, not even the source of the percentage figure. But using Google easily leads to Moenius, who holds an endowed chair of Spatial Economic Analysis and Regional Planning at the university. That means he studies community trends, with an eye toward the future.His projections apply throughout the hospitality industry, but the numbers he computed were for Las Vegas only. He arrived at the 65.2 percent figure by combining research done by Oxford professors, on the probability of automation for various occupations, with employment data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.“The top candidates for automation are actually administrative services, sales, and food,” Moenius says. “When you think about it, the gaming industry is largely automated already. You have slot machines.” But many of the activities surrounding the casino floor can be done by robots, especially in food preparation. (Las Vegas already has robot bartenders – although that’s essentially a gimmick at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.)“Just think about the share of jobs in Vegas. How many are really at the tables and how many are in related parts?” Moenius asks. The answer is that more jobs, by far, are in the hotel industry, and in sales and with food services. “That’s where the automation potential comes in.” Las Vegas, Moenius says, is particularly subject to more automation because of the density of restaurants in the city.Automation in the food industry isn’t new, of course. “Even now for the household, you get the precooked meal packages, and restaurants must prepare in advance to deliver it so quickly,” Moenius says. “I can’t imagine the chef starts cutting your filet mignon after you place your order.” But in that industry and elsewhere, automation will accelerate, Moenius says, because there is a greater demand for it and production costs are dropping.It may seem surprising that sales jobs are threatened by automation. But such staff could go the way of the travel agents that used to book flights for everyday travelers. Who doesn’t book flights on their own, online, nowadays?“There is the combination of robots getting into such large numbers of production that they are cheap enough to be adopted by larger amounts of people,” he says. “And the second thing is artificial intelligence has advanced so much. By now every smartphone is an artificial intelligence device.“There are programs are out there. There are 1.5 billion smartphones sold every year. You can write artificial intelligence software because if it’s spread over that many units it’s basically no cost per unit.”Jeremy Kaplan, an adjunction professor at Stanford University, echoed Moenius’ projections in a July 22 Wall Street Journal article titled “Don’t Fear the Robots.” “If history is a guide, this remarkable technology won’t spell the end of work as we know it,” he wrote. “Instead, artificial intelligence will change the way that we live and work, improving our standard of living while shuffling jobs from one category to another in the familiar capitalist cycle of creation and destruction.” (Remember elevator operators, gas station attendants, and bowling alley pinsetters?)The point that Moenius wants to emphasize, though, is the move to automation will likely accelerate. “We need to tell our high school kids right now that life is likely not going to continue as it is now,” he says.But that may not mean jobs will dry up. He reasons, that, for example, if automaton brings retail and food prices down, then people may have more money for gambling. “You may actually see an increase in demand for poker dealers. And you have the possibility of entirely new games being invented,” he said. And, of course, other jobs, such as elementary school teachers, police officers, and therapists, aren’t going away anytime soon.Moenius’ study did not directly address the effect automation could have on one of Vegas’ excellent side businesses, one that relies on a very, very direct human element. But if you think even that industry is exempt from automation, think again. If you do a Google search on “sex robots”, you’ll find recent reports from many major publications about both existing and future commercial offerings. (Warning: some search results will fall into the category Not Safe For Work, so if what you’re doing is work-related, you might want to let your boss know ahead of time.)In short: be careful when making assumptions about how unique human workers really are.